Henrik Fisker has that glimmer in his eye again, that spark of enthusiasm. It's been some two years since he cut ties with Fisker Automotive, the manufacturer he co-founded under his own surname. It would appear that the Danish-born man with the boyish face is back to doing what he loves most: designing automobiles. His favorite feature of the Fisker-Galpin Rocket lurking a few feet away from him in the driveway of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Amelia Island, Florida? "It would have to be the hood scoops and the rear fenders," Fisker says as he almost exhales the words, then smiles broadly. "They remind me of the 1968 Shelby GT500, my favorite muscle car."
The Fisker-Galpin Rocket was unveiled at the 2014 Los Angeles Auto Show, but this particular car is not the same silver-painted example that Fisker unveiled to the world last November along with his partner in crime, Beau Boeckmann, president of Galpin Motors. Instead, the Rocket is a production model dressed in black that looks positively sinister parked amid the classic and modern Benzes, Ferraris, and Porsches that have shown up for the 20th annual Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance. All Rockets start life as a 2015 Ford Mustang GT, ordered as a complete car with the optional Performance Pack. From there, the car is largely disassembled by the Galpin team and put back together again using unique pieces. In fact, the only original panels that survive the transition from Mustang to Rocket are the roof and the doors. Every other bit of skin -- from the front valance to the rear fenders -- has been replaced with Fisker-designed pieces made from carbon fiber by MetalMaster Inc., a San Diego company that specializes in fabrication and prototyping for various industries.
Even with the extensive changes, the Rocket is still clearly a Mustang, something Fisker intended. "You don't want to stray too far from the classic Mustang features," he explains. "The three vertical lines on the taillights, the front grille shape -- it has to look like a Mustang. Shelby would just change a few things on the car; what we're doing is similar to that."
Once the Rocket's hood is opened, Fisker shows me how all the new panels are designed to bolt up at the factory mounting points. Fit and finish is remarkably good for an operation said to have a capacity of just 150 cars per year. Yes, there is some mass to be shaved from using the lightweight material, but perhaps not as much as you'd think -- a carbon-bodied Rocket is estimated to be just 60-70 pounds lighter than stock.
The interior is also thoroughly face-lifted; the stock Mustang GT seats have their upholstery removed and replaced with sumptuous Italian leather. The dash is also covered in hand-stitched leather, and the center stack gets carbon fiber replacements for many of the factory plastics. Interestingly, the gauge faces, often the first thing a tuner will swap, are stock. As production begins over the next several months, we're told custom gauge faces could become available. The interior, smelling richly of leather, makes one wonder what the Ford Mustang's cabin could be like if the profit margins were available.
The Rocket's base price will start at roughly $109,000, but the car I'm about to drive features a Whipple supercharger prominently positioned atop the engine, displacing 2.9 liters and operating at 15 to 16 pounds of boost. Supercharged models will start at $125,000 -- a sizable jump from stock-engined versions. (If you want the full-boat version with Gran Turismo brakes, even better interior/exterior bits, and lightweight wheels, you're looking at a cool $137,095.) But then, stock 5.0-liter Coyote V-8s don't make 725 horsepower and an estimated 500-plus lb-ft of torque. Surprisingly, only an intercooler had to be added to the cooling system -- even with this much power, the Performance Pack's uprated stay-cool bits prove ample.
But the extra grunt does necessitate a retuned suspension with new springs and anti-roll bars. The brakes on this particular car are Ford's optional Brembo setup with larger cross-drilled discs and beefier calipers. The tires are absolute meatballs -- 275-width Pirellis up front, 325-width in the rear, wrapped over 21-inch wheels with a blacked-out, multi-spoke design that's more modern than retro. With this much power, more rubber can't be a bad thing.
As it's said, if there's one thing you can count on in springtime Florida, the weather isn't it. I set out from the driveway of the hotel behind the wheel of the Rocket, sun shining above, a few clouds on the horizon. Five minutes into my trip, just as I was marveling at how easy a 725-horse muscle car can be to drive on the heavily congested two-lane surrounding the concours, the heavens opened and dropped a torrent of rain. I groaned loudly -- and was answered immediately by Steve McCord, general manager at Galpin Auto Sports, in the passenger seat who started mumbling semi-coherently about the weather "ruining his cars." Only John Lamm, AUTOMOBILE contributor and today's photographer, already contorted in the back seat, seemed not to mind, despite the fact that he and his camera will take a soaking getting our action shots.
We powered down a lazy coastal road, the rain disappearing in spots, only to reappear with even more force moments later. Whenever the rain let up, I'd put the throttle down for a few seconds to reveal a healthy shove from the supercharged V-8 -- and a hearty bellow from the specially designed exhaust system. Power seems to build in a fairly linear fashion from very low rpm and feels far superior to the stock Mustang GT, as expected. I'm even impressed with the summer-spec Pirellis, which evacuate even an inch or so of standing water at speed with no drama. The brakes operated as fluidly as stock despite their increased size, and there were no issues with noise, even in the wet weather. With three people loading up the car, the suspension felt like it was reaching the end of its travel fairly quickly, but McCord says that spring rates are still being fine-tuned.
With the Fisker-Galpin facility based not too far from AUTOMOBILE'S Southern California HQ, we're looking forward to more driving time in the dry in the not-too-distant future. Of course, if you're already sold on a Rocket, orders are being taken now.
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